3349415603_ba35b8e672_z_flickr.comAutodidact has nothing to do with automobiles, it simply means “A self taught person”.

While this is a web page for parents of Colville school children to learn the truth about our school system, it should be noted that I am not a huge fan of public education. I am a fan of education, just not education that involves forced learning systems on captive residents or extraordinary amounts of money.

I am self taught in many things, so I hold these types of individuals in high esteem. I am a high school drop out. It wasn’t that I didn’t like school, I loved it as an escape from other things in life, but when I encountered bully teachers, school had to go so that I could keep some of my sanity.

7171947998_6285b80e08_flickr.comI then found a job and tried a short college stint where I found my husband. Shortly after our marriage we started our own business on what could loosely be termed a shoestring budget and found that every aspect of that business was our own responsibility. Long before we even knew the word Autodidact existed, we were teaching ourselves things like accounting, photography, sales, merchandizing, printing, web page design, customer service, customer complaints, shipping, maintenance and repair, international sales and service, purchasing, product design and development, invoice design and implementation and file management, among many other things.

Oh and did you know that starting a business with your spouse is one of the leading causes of divorce? So we had to learn marriage management because we were together 24 hours a day. The good news is that if you survive, you will actually strengthen your marriage. So next time you hear about a small business, try to think about how much those individuals actually accomplish in a days work.

8681295983_98e6eb2404_b_flickr.comStudents are now struggling with the highest college costs in the history of our country and, might I say of the world. But the good news is that in today’s information age, it is so much easier to find ways to self teach than it was a mere generation ago (I learned the old fashioned way). It’s much less expensive for Autodidacts than it is for a college student. It’s also a lot easier because you don’t have to take an overabundance of classes, so you spend more time learning what you need.

The purpose of this post is to give people hope. Those who don’t have the first hope of affording a college education can take comfort in knowing that there are other ways to live the life you want. Don’t be fooled, you don’t always need college to get to where you want to be. I know a person in their mid 50’s who is still paying on their college tuition. A high paid college education isn’t always a good thing. A college tuition costs as much as a new home. A new home takes 30 years to pay off.  Do we really want our children burdened with two mortgage payments … or no education … or no home?

Of course, we all want a doctor to have a proper education, so this post is obviously not speaking to those individuals who need a higher education, but there are many types of work out there that can be self taught. In many ways a self taught individual is a much more effective worker because they are motivated to learn, they engross themselves in every aspect of their interest, and pay attention in class. They7007282498_97337ab190_flickr.comaren’t learning just to pass the test, they are interested in gaining real knowledge. In the end their work reflects self pride and shows a polished implementation.

It’s true that we learn more from our failures than from our successes, so don’t be afraid to flub a bit. Take Thomas Edison for example, who is famous for his failures and his perseverance as well as his success. Don’t ever give up on your dreams. The only people who fail are those who stop trying. It’s inevitable that those who keep on with what they are doing will accomplish more and more. You can’t really unlearn – or become worse at what you are doing. The natural flow of life is that the more you work at something, the better you will become at it. Besides, you should be enjoying the process while you’re at it.

And for those of us older folks, don’t give up on your dreams either, keep learning things that interest you and expand your horizons. It may be too late to be a football star, but it’s never too late to enjoy some portion of what you love. Find an aspect of the thing you enjoy and then learn all you can about it! And don’t think you have to stick to one thing, if you have several interests, then I bet you’ll take pleasure in learning more about all of them.

So here we go in the spirit of celebrating all types of education is a list some famous and not so famous, though interesting, Autodidacts.


Abraham_Lincoln_November_1863_en.wikipedia.orgAbraham Lincoln, lawyer, U.S. president. Finished one year of formal schooling, self-taught himself trigonometry, and read Blackstone on his own to become a lawyer. Read more:

Andrew Jackson, U.S. president, general, attorney, judge, congressman.Imacon Color Scanner Home-schooled. Became a practicing attorney by the age of 35 – without a formal education. Read more:

8882433779_70093b7bbb_b_flickr.comAlbert Einstein, physicist. Yes: the man whose name now equates to “genius”; who published more than 300 scientific papers; the man behind E=MC2; the man who came up with the theory of relativity; and the man who won a Nobel prize—was in fact a high school dropout. He attempted to get into university, but initially failed the entrance exams. Read more:


View_of_Astronaut_John_Glenn_in_his_Mercury_pressure_suit_de.wikipedia.orgJohn Glenn became a war hero and one of the most famous astronauts in history, despite being a college dropout. Read more:

Frank Lloyd Wright, the most influential architect of the twentieth century. Never attended high school. Read more:


William Shakespear, Poet and playwright. Scholars have suggested that he may have attended the King’s New School, but they also believe—based on some of his writings—that he did not attend school past the age of thirteen. It’s pretty astonishing that a man credited with inventing more than 1700 words was, by all accounts, a middle school drop out. Read more:

2932199752_03856cb5d9_z_flickr.comMark Twain, Arguably the most beloved American writer and humorist in history, Mark Twain gained fame after creating the classic characters of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. In fact, his Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered by many to be “the great American novel.” Not bad for a guy who had only a minimal formal education, and who was already in the midst of an apprenticeship at the age of eleven. Read more:

Playwright George Bernard Shaw left formal education while still in his mid-teens to become a clerk at an estate firm. He compared schools to prison and said that “I did not learn anything at school. Read more at:

Ernest Hemingway, the American novelist and short story writer, was primarily self-educated after high school. “… he read for hours at a time in bed”, recounted his sister Marcelline. “He read everything around the house–all the books, all the magazines, even the A.M.A. Journals from Dad’s office downstairs. Ernie also took out great numbers of books from the public library.” His father wanted him to go to Oberlin for college, but Hemingway decided to become a reporter for the Kansas City Star. Read more at:

Bob Proctor, motivational speaker, bestselling author, and co-founder of Life Success Publishing. Attended two months of high school. Read more:

Katzenjammer1901_de.wikipedia.orgRudolph Dirks, one of the earliest and most noted comic strip artists, was an autodidact. He sold his first cartoon to a local newspaper when he was 13. For a while, he mainly designed ads. 17 years old, he sold cartoons to magazines like Life und Judge. With jobs like cover images for pulp novels he made his living until the New York Journal hired him, where he earned fame as creator of The Katzenjammer Kids. Read more at:

Harlan Ellison, multi-award-winning speculative fiction author and screenwriter. Ellison attended Ohio State University for 18 months before being expelled for hitting a professor who criticized his writing, and for the following 40 years he sent the professor a copy of every work he published. Ellison wrote screenplays for a wide variety of television series such as Star Trek and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and has won dozens of awards in science fiction and fantasy genres. Read more at:

Maxim Gorky was a self-taught man who rose out of poverty to become a world famous writer. Read more at:

History_-_3_commons.wikimedia.orgJ.A. Rogers, the Jamaican-American author, was able to educate himself after only receiving a few years worth of primary education in Jamaica. He attended but never completed high school. While he was able to study  commercial art at the Chicago Art Institute later in life, he got most of his knowledge in libraries and was able to produce many books based on race, history, sociology, and anthropology. He also mastered other languages such as Spanish, German, and French. Read more at:

Bob Proctor, motivational speaker, bestselling author, and co-founder of Life Success Publishing. Attended two months of high school. Read more:



Welcome_to_Hershey_World_by_don82159_don82159.deviantart.comMilton Hershey, founder of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. 4th grade education. Read more:

Rachael Ray, Food Network cooking show star, food industry entrepreneur, with no formal culinary arts training.  Never attended college. Read more:

Anne Beiler, multimillionaire co-founder of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. Dropped out of high school. Read more:

Barbara Lynch, chef, owner of a group of restaurants, worth over $10 million, in Boston. Dropped out of high school. Read more:

Karel_Dujardin_-_Woman_Milking_a_Red_Cow_en.wikipedia.orgCarl Lindner, billionaire investor, founder of United Dairy Farmers. Dropped out of high school at the age of 14. Read more:
Colonel Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). Dropped out of elementary school, later earned law degree by correspondence. Read more:
Dave Thomas, billionaire founder of  Wendy’s. Dropped out of high school at 15. Read more:

Jimmy Dean, multimillionaire founder of Jimmy Dean Foods. Dropped out of high school at 16. Read more:


 piano-317026_640_pixabay.comHans Zimmer began playing piano at the age of three, but his interest in lessons waned after just two weeks. When he was six years old, he decided that he wanted to become a composer. When Zimmer was 14 years old, he moved to England. Throughout his childhood, he was expelled from several different schools because he preferred to study music instead of his schoolwork. Read more: Hans Zimmer Biography

Billy Joel was born in the Bronx on May 9, 1949 and raised in the suburb ofHicksville New York. Billy reluctantly began piano lessons at an early age, at his mother’s insistence. Joel attended Hicksville High School until 1967, but he did not graduate with his class. He had been playing at a piano bar to help his mother make ends meet, which interfered with his attendance. Rather than attend summer school to earn his diploma, Joel decided to begin a career in music: “I told them, ‘To hell with it. If I’m not going to Columbia University, I’m going to Columbia Records, and you don’t need a high school diploma over there’.” Read More at:

Arnold Schoenberg called himself an “autodidact” in an interview. Other largely self-taught composers include notably Danny Elfman, Havergal Brian, Nobuo Uematsu, Joachim Raff, Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, Bohuslay Martinu, Georg Philipp Telemann, Toru Takemitsu and Edward Elgar.  Read more at:

Keith Moon, the drummer for the rock band The Who. Widely considered one of the greatest drummers of all time. The only training he ever received was at 16 years old when he had 3 or 4 drum lessons with Carlo Little (an early member of the Rolling Stones), who was also a self-taught drummer. Read more at:

David-Bowie_Chicago_2002-08-08_photoby_Adam-Bielawski_de.wikipedia.orgDavid Bowie, singer, musician, multi-instrumentalist, actor, and painter, has never trained in any of the mentioned fields and only received a few singing lessons in the 1960s (as reported by his former manager, Ken Pitt). As a teenager he took some lessons on saxophone by Ronnie Ross. All other instruments (including piano, keyboards/synths, electric/acoustic guitar, harmonica, koto, limited bass, and percussion), he taught himself. His paintings and sculptures were created (and exhibited) without any formal art school training. He took a few lessons in movement and dance with the Lindsey Kemps Dance company but trained himself in mime. Read more at:

Jimi Hendrix, was guitarist and singer-songwriter, considered by some to be the greatest electric guitarist in music history. Entirely self-taught, Jimmy’s inability to read music made him concentrate even harder on the music he heard.

His father Al took notice of Jimmy’s interest in the guitar, recalling, “I used to have Jimmy clean up the bedroom all the time while I was gone, and when I would come home I would find a lot of broom straws around the foot of the bed. I’d say to him, `Well didn’t you sweep up the floor?’ and he’d say, `Oh yeah,’ he did. But I’d find out later that he used to be sitting at the end of the bed there and strumming the broom like he was playing a guitar.” Al found an old one-string ukulele, which he gave to Jimmy to play a huge improvement over the broom. By the summer of 1958, Al had purchased Jimmy a five-dollar, second-hand acoustic guitar from one of his friends. Read more:

Richard Branson, billionaire founder of Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Mobile, and more. Dropped out of high school at 16. Read more:

Hip-hop superstar Marshall Mathers AKA Eminem, dropped out of high school at age 17 and had to repeat ninth grade multiple times. He has gone on record as saying that his ability at rhyming comes from his love of books and reading dictionary front to back multiple times. Read more at:


Russell_Crowe_en.wikipedia.orgRussel Crowe saved up to go acting school at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Sydney but by the time he had saved enough by working acting gigs he was told he already was practicing what was taught, and he would only develop bad habits. Read more at:

199px-Chris_Rock_2012_commons.wikimedia.orgChris Rock was bussed to schools in predominately white neighborhoods of Brooklyn, where he endured bullying and beatings from white students. As he got older, the bullying became worse and Rock’s parents pulled him out of high school . He decided to drop out of high school altogether and later received a GED. Read more:

Jim_Carrey_Cannes_2009_(cropped)_sl.wikipedia.orgJim Carrey never finished high school because he worked full-time to help his family survive their economic hardship, and also helped care for his mother who battled a severe, chronic illness. Read More:

Al_Pacino_en.wikipedia.orgAl Pacino dropped out of school at age 17. He was often unemployed and homeless, and sometimes slept on the street, in theaters, or at friends’ houses. Read More:

Hilary_Swank_face_it.wikipedia.orgWhen Hilary Swank was fifteen, her parents separated, and she and her mother, supportive of her daughter’s desire to act, moved to Los Angeles, where they lived out of their car until Swank’s mother saved enough money to rent an apartment. Swank has called her mother the inspiration for her acting career and her life. In California, Swank enrolled in South Pasadena High School, dropping out later. Read more: By the time she was 15, Catherine Zeta-Jones had dropped out of school to join a touring production of the musical The Pajama Game. Read more:

 JohnnyDeppApr2011_en.wikipedia.orgAt 16, Johnny Depp dropped out of high school and joined the garage band, The Kids. The group became successful enough to open for the Talking Heads and the B-52s, but they barely made ends meet. Depp lived for months in a friend’s ’67 Chevy Impala. Read more:

Tracy_Morgan_7_Shankbone_2009_NYCcommons.wikimedia.orgTracy Morgan married his girlfriend Sabina and dropped out of high school just four credits short of his diploma. Read more:

Nicolas_Cage_-_66ème_Festival_de_Venise_(Mostra)_en.wikipedia.orgAt age 15, Nicolas Cage fell in love with acting during a summer class at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. He dropped out of Beverly Hills High School to pursue an acting career, making his debut on television in 1981. Read more:

Whoopi_Goldberg_Cannes_1992_en.wikipedia.orgWhoopie Goldberg dropped out of high school. Read more:


David Green, billionaire founder of Hobby Lobby. Started the Hobby Lobby chain with only $600.  High school graduate. Read more:

Dov Charney, founder of American Apparel. Started the company in high school, and never attended college. Read more:

Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, one of the richest people in the world, dyslexic. Read more:

Isaac Merrit Singer, sewing machine inventor, founder of Singer. Elementary school dropout. Read more:

Joyce C. Hall, founder of Hallmark. Started selling greeting cards at the age of 18. Did not attend college. Read more:

Henry Ford, Industrialist and Entrepreneur.  The man who is best-remembered for almost single-handedly creating the US automobile industry. Despite having next to no real education, Ford created the mechanized assembly line—and it wasn’t long before Detroit gained the nickname of the Motor City because of his incredible work. Read More:

Before becoming possibly the richest man in history (taking inflation into account), John Rockefeller was the lowly son of a dodgy con artist and high-school student in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. Although he had some education, by the time he was sixteen, Rockefeller decided it was time to shirk school and begin a career—with the goal of earning $100,000 in his lifetime. Read more:


SteveJobsMacbookAir_pl.wikipedia.orgSteve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple. Jobs and Steve Wozniak created the first successful personal computers, and over the years helped introduce numerous revolutionary products such as the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. And Jobs did this after attending college for only six months. Read more:

Barry Diller, Media mogul Barry Diller popularized the TV miniseries with Roots, cofounded the Fox network, and owned shopping channels QVC and HSN. Diller grew up in Los Angeles and claims he rarely attended classes on Mondays or Fridays at Beverly Hills High School. He dropped out of UCLA after four months. Read More:!

Billy Joe (Red) McCombs, billionaire, founder ofClear Channel media, real estate investor. Dropped out of law school to sell cars in 1950. Read more:

Many successful filmmakers did not attend or dropped out of college and/or film school. These include Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, John Huston, Roman Polanski, Dario Argento, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, Christopher Nolan, James Cameraon, Steven Spielberg, Richard Linklater and Paul Thomas Anderson. Read more at:

Russian cinematographe0r Mikhail Krichman  taught himself cinematography through reading technical magazines, books and watching films. Read more at:

Rob Kalin, founder of Etsy. Flunked out of high school, enrolled in art school for a time, faked a student ID at MIT so he could take classes. His professors subsequently helped him get into NYU, they were so impressed. Read more:

Walt_disney_staren.wikipedia.orgWalt Disney, founder of the Walt Disney Company. Dropped out of high school at 16. Read more:


Now that you’ve learned about other brilliant self taught individuals, get out there, learn what you want and live the life you love! You don’t have to give up an education because you can’t afford it.

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